Bicycle accidents frequently cause serious injury or death. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2013 more than 48,000 bicyclists were injured and 743 people died in bicycle accidents involving another vehicle in the U.S. Of those injured, 13,000 were children, and 3,100 people were seriously injured. The number of bicycle accidents has increased over the last few years. In 2013, 494,000 emergency department visits were due to bicycle-related injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The injuries sustained range from scrapes and bruises to hand or wrist injuries, to broken bones (particularly collar bones and ribs), to spinal cord injury, to
Who Pays the Bills for Bicycle Accident Injuries?
According to the CDC, only one percent of trips taken in the U.S. are by bicycle, but nearly two percent of all traffic fatalities are bicyclists. Bicyclists do not have the protection of an enclosure around them, as do cars, trucks and other vehicles. Bicyclists are, in most cases, the most difficult to see on the roadways. Yet, a bicycle is considered a vehicle by Virginia law.
People injured in bicycle accidents may or may not have bicyclist insurance. Most must rely upon their auto insurance to pay for medical bills and damages if a car was involved in the accident in some way.
Determining liability in a bicycle accident involving another vehicle can be complicated. Bicycle accident lability involves many of the same considerations as other vehicle crashes. Liability typically is determined by illegal or wrongful acts on the part of one “vehicle” operator, or negligence on the part of one “vehicle” operator.
It is important to understand that bicyclists sometimes cause harm or injury to others. It should not be assumed, therefore, that every accident involving a bicyclist and another vehicle will necessarily be the fault of the other vehicle. Both operators are subject to the same laws or “rules of the road.” Both operators are responsible, as well, to exercise “ordinary care” to protect their own safety and the safety of others with whom they share the road.
Often, demonstrating recklessness or negligence depends upon the testimony of eyewitnesses or physical evidence from the crash. In all vehicle accidents, driving behavior that violates state law (e.g., speeding, running a traffic light or stop sign) constitutes “negligence per se.” This means that the driver was cited for a traffic violation, which is evidence of negligence. The burden of proof then shifts to the driver of the vehicle to prove that s/he did not cause the bicyclist’s injuries. On the other hand, negligence by the cyclist can also determine liability. Bicyclist negligence, for example, might take the form of riding against traffic, failure to stop at a stop sign, or turning into traffic abruptly.
When a bicycle accident involves a child on a bicycle, most courts tend to hold drivers of other vehicles to a higher standard of responsibility.
Contributory Negligence in Virginia
The ability of a bicyclist to collect damages in Virginia is complicated by the Rule of Contributory Negligence. Virginia is one of a few states where this rule is in effect. It states, in essence, that if the plaintiff in a suit is negligent in any way that contributed to the accident, that plaintiff cannot collect any compensation in the case.
Watch Bettina Altizer’s video explaining this rule.
Read our blog post: Personal Injury Negligence Laws State by State
If you or your child is injured in a bicycle accident, call Altizer Law, P.C. We can discuss this rule with you and help you determine how this rule affects your right to compensation.
Key Bicycle Accident Statistics
Who is most at risk (CDC data)
- Adolescents and young adults (aged 15-19) and adults aged 40 and over have the highest bicycle death rates
- Children (aged 5-14), adolescents, and young adults (15-24) have the highest rates of non-fatal bicycle-related injuries, accounting for more than one-third of all bicycle-related injuries seen in U.S. emergency departments.
- Males are much more likely to be killed or injured on bicycles than are females.
- Most bicyclist deaths occur in urban areas and at non-intersection locations.
Access the 2016 Report: Bicycling and Walking in the United States (https://issuu.com/cms_communications/docs/2016benchmarkingreport_web/1)
- The average age of bicyclists killed in crashes with motor vehicles has increased to 44 years of age.
- 83% of those killed were male.
- 68% of bicyclist fatalities occurred in urban areas
- 22% of bicyclist fatalities occurred between 6:00 and 8:59 pm.
- 20% of bicyclists killed had blood alcohol concentrations of 0.08 g/dL or higher.
- In 29% of the crashes, either the driver or the bicyclist had blood alcohol concentrations of 0.08 g/dL or higher.
The most frequent causes of injury were:
- Hit by a car 29%
- Fell 17%
- Roadway/walkway not in good repair 13%
- Rider error/not paying attention 13%
- Crashed/collision 7%
- Dog ran out 4%
What To Do If You’ve Been In A Bicycle Accident
Virginia law requires that bicyclists must stop when they are in an accident involving death, injury, or property damage. You must give your name and address to the police and to any person involved in the accident or the owner of the property. If unattended property is damaged, you must make a reasonable effort to find the owner. Your name and address must be given to the owner If the owner cannot be located, you must leave a note in a conspicuous place at the accident site and report the accident to the police within 24 hours. (VA Code §46.2-894, 46.2-895, 46.2-896)
If you are injured, seek medical help and contact the local police.
Wait for local police to arrive on the scene. Even if you don’t think you are injured or you think your injuries are not severe enough to report, stay at the scene of the accident and file a police report. Minor injuries can develop into more serious injuries later. Failure to speak to the police and file a report may jeopardize a suit against the driver at fault
If the other driver tries to negotiate, ask them to wait until the police arrive. Drivers have been known to apologize and accept blame and then deny that they said this once the police arrive. The police may ticket the driver of the other vehicle, which will help you when you file a claim with the insurance company. Be certain that the police include your version of the events in the police report. Be sure also that they document any and all injuries you have sustained.
If the victim is your child, insist that the child be interviewed in your presence and that the police include what you or other adults saw happen when the accident occurred.
Take pictures of the involved vehicles where they were after the accident. Take pictures of the site of the accident from every angle. Take pictures of your/your child’s injuries. If you cannot take the pictures, ask someone to do so for you.
If you are able, get the names and contact information for all witnesses, and the driver of the other vehicle.
Call Altizer Law, P.C.
We will follow up with the police and with all witnesses to the accident. We will talk with your insurance company and the other driver’s insurance company (as appropriate) on your behalf. We will aggressively protect your rights and ensure that you receive appropriate medical attention.
Above all, we will protect you and seek justice on your behalf. And, as always, we will be available to answer your questions and represent your rights. We are always and only on your side. Contact us today online or by phone at 540-345-2000.
Call Altizer Law, P. C.
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a bicycle accident involving another vehicle, call the experienced legal team of Altizer Law, P.C. Bettina Altizer is a trusted attorney with a long history of representing people injured in cycling accidents. We will help you gather the reports related to your accident and your injuries and help you understand the liability issues associated with bicycle accident cases in Virginia. We will also help you cope with related injuries, build a recovery plan, and we will build the strongest possible case to win for you the full financial compensation you are entitled to collect under Virginia law. Above all, we will be always and only on your side.